Natural Health Perspectives: Causes & Cures For Anxiety

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 1:56pm

By Wendy Hodsdon, ND

All of a sudden, you get a heavy pressure in your chest. Your heart starts to pound. You start breathing more quickly and sweating, and start thinking about everything that might go wrong. All of these changes are signs of fear as well as common components of anxiety.

Normal, healthy fear is the body's reaction to danger. But anxiety is not a response to a real potential danger. Mild feelings of anxiety are experienced by almost everyone. The most common types of anxiety disorders include panic disorder, fear of crowds (agoraphobia), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dietary changes and natural remedies can significantly reduce anxiety disorders with no side effects. Eating a healthful diet in a relaxed atmosphere can further reduce symptoms. Here are a few factors that may be contributing to your anxiety, as well as some natural solutions.

Natural remedies for brain-related anxiety

The brain changes when anxiety symptoms are experienced regularly. In panic disorders, the basal ganglia deep in the brain are overactive. In agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, a different part of the brain (the anteriorcingulated gyrus) is often overactive as well as the basal ganglia.

By supporting these specific areas of the brain, it is possible to reduce anxiety symptoms. Flaxseed oil may support the anterior cingulated gyrus; in one study, it was shown to help people with fear of crowds. Reducing brain toxicity and avoiding low blood sugar can help stabilize people with agoraphobia significantly. Adding botanical medicines, such as kava kava, valerian and St. John's Wort, can also support the brain in mild to moderate cases of anxiety.

Potential medical conditions causing anxiety

Some medical reasons for anxiety disorders include an overactive thyroid, excessive caffeine intake, alcohol withdrawal, hormonal changes, or a family history of anxiety disorders. In women, anxiety attacks often occur at the end of a menstrual cycle, after having a baby, or during menopause. Correcting the underlying medical condition can relieve the anxiety.

Links between lactic acid and anxiety

People with anxiety disorders are sensitive to lactate, which is a product of lactic acid. Muscles make lactic acid if they do not have enough oxygen during physical exercise. In one study, people who experienced anxiety regularly had higher levels of lactic acid in their blood as compared to normal controls. Some dietary recommendations to reduce lactic acid levels include:

  • Reduce alcohol, caffeine, and sugar intake
  • Increase B-vitamins, especially niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6) and Thiamin (B1)
  • Increase calcium and magnesium
  • Eliminate food allergens

Other ways to reduce anxiety

Other suggestions that may help anxiety include reducing sources of stress in life, identifying and replacing negative coping patterns, doing a relaxation/breathing exercise for five minutes everyday, and getting regular exercise. A person with an anxiety disorder should seek out professional assistance if symptoms are severe or overwhelming.